Thursday, September 18, 2008

Intelligence Professionals And Educators Take Note: You Have 5 Years Until "The Blur" Hits Everything

Take a close look at the new graphic from KZero below. I know it is hard to read (click on the image to get the full version) but the red dots represent existing virtual worlds and the blue dots represent planned virtual worlds. The size of the dot represents the number (in millions!) of inhabitants of these virtual worlds.

Notice anything special?

The fading line between the real and the virtual is already apparent to students going through colleges, universities and the entry level hiring pool right now. "The blur", however, hits us all in about 5-10 years when new students and new hires who were raised playing in virtual worlds begin to enter the workforce.

What is this "blur"? I borrowed it from Flint Dille. Flint is in the entertainment business (movies and games). He gave a speech some time ago to a bunch of young game designers where he outlined the concepts behind "the blur". You can find the whole presentation at his website, The Bureau Of Film And Games, but the point is that, within the entertainment industry, the traditional lines between the types of content (film, books, games, etc) have blurred to a point where they are no longer recognizable -- are not, perhaps, even particularly important.

High speed wireless telecommunications, an ever expanding sensor network to provide information and feedback and the expected advances in computing power will likely combine with this wave of virtual worlds natives to blur not just entertainment but everything. The educational and intelligence landscapes will not be immune; they will change completely in this augmented version of what we call reality.

One of the items at the recent OSINT Conference that drew a good bit of attention from the blogosphere was a briefing by Dr. Dwight Toavs from the NDU which included a scenario where terrorists used the popular online game World Of Warcraft to coordinate an attack. A large group of people who responded to this scenario thought it was silly; another large group of people over-reacted in the opposite direction. The point of a thought piece such as this, however, seems to me to be that this new kind of world is coming -- and sooner than we may be prepared for.

In a world that pilloried the intelligence community for failing to imagine the 9/11 plot, it seems prudent to spend some time and resources getting ahead of the blur.

No comments: